An incredible, caring, ministry

by Sue Schumann Warner – 

Hospice came into our lives on Mother’s Day 2002, and my family will forever be grateful for this incredible, caring ministry.

Shortly after my father, Chuck Schumann, turned 85 he learned he had metastatic prostate cancer; x-rays revealed a skeletal structure riddled with the disease. As the cancer spread, his pain became unmanageable and unbearable, eventually causing him to lose the will to live. And so, he came to our home to die.

As a strong Christian who loved God, this was uncharted territory for him—and for us. It also became the process by which we as a family—my two brothers, our spouses, and children—were able to participate in a miracle as profound as birth: his journey toward eternity.

That Sunday afternoon when I brought Dad to our home, I knew nothing of the process of death or of care for the dying; I was desperate for help. I turned to the Yellow Pages and found the name of a hospice—TrinityCare—whose fundraiser my husband and I had once attended.

I called and explained our situation and was told a caseworker would come to our home the next morning to start the hospice care. From then on, we were never alone as Dad completed his journey.

We had a team of primary caregivers: a physician, a nurse, a chaplain, and a social worker. In addition, we had wonderful aides who bathed Dad and gave personal care. All provided a unique element of support that enabled us to get through a wrenchingly difficult time—and get through it together, at home.

For the three weeks that Dad was with us, hospice not only supplied practical items—including a hospital bed, medication for pain, and ongoing medical assistance, but also emotional and spiritual support—material on grief, the process of dying, and continued prayer. In short, everything he—and we—needed for this transition. The chaplain visited regularly, providing a source of spiritual strength for Dad and for all of us—and she provided hugs, when needed, when it all seemed to be just too much to bear.

We journeyed on, together. At times, we laughed. At times we cried. Most of the time, we just endured. It was like a long, difficult labor. As the time grew nearer, and his body reflected the changes that were causing it to shut down, our hospice caregivers helped us know what to expect. We were never alone.

In the end, he died the way he wanted: peacefully, at home, without pain and supported by a family who loved him.

(And warmly welcomed in heaven, I suspect, by all those he was looking forward to seeing. That first day must have dawned brilliantly for him…)

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